August 23, 2012

Youthful Lady Tigers Looking to Ride Solid Pitching to Success in 2012

With a pair of talented pitchers returning as well as the middle of the lineup intact, Scotland County's softball program will be looking to build on a 12-7 season a year ago that ended with a disappointing loss in the district semi-finals.

Despite graduating five seniors, SCR-I coach Kim Small thinks she has a nucleus intact to once again contend for a state playoff berth.

Heading that list are pitchers Megan Creek and Bethany Rader, both all-conference and all-district performers.

Creek enters her senior season after compiling a 6-5 record on the mound last year with a 1.25 earned run average per game. She threw 72 1/3 innings and allowed just 58 hits and 24 walks while striking out 96.

Rader went 6-2 on the mound with a 2.04 ERA in 54 2/3 innings of work. She gave up 34 hits and 12 walks while fanning 64 batters.

The duo also generated a formidable punch at the top of the lineup. Creek hit a team best .467 in the leadoff spot. She led the Lady Tigers with 30 runs scored and was tops on the squad with 14 extra base hits, including four home runs.

Rader hit .373 last season, second best on the team and finished with a team-high 32 RBIs. She had 10 extra-base hits including a pair of homeruns.

Scotland County will have to replace a pair of key bats in Loren Smith and Elizabeth Duzan. Smith hit .349 in her senior season in the cleanup spot. Duzan batted .370 and scored 17 runs in the ninth spot, a key component in Coach Smith's offense as a secondary leadoff hitter.

"We've been toying around with the idea of putting Randi Slaughter in that spot, because of her speed," Small said. "Later in the game it gives us a key bat in front of Megan and the top of the order."

Slaughter batted .352 last season, starting every game for the Lady Tigers in left field in her freshman season. She is slotted to move over to center field to replace Duzan.

Smith's departure also leaves big shoes to fill on the diamond. Sophomore Olivia Harris is slotted to take over the catching duties.

Coach Small said she will be limiting Harris's workload with the bat and on the bases as much as possible to save her legs, after she missed much of last year and the off-season recovering from foot surgery.

The defense will have two other key new faces, as Small will have to find two new infielders after losing two-year starters Cali Holt and Courtney Jackson.

Claire Shannan has been penciled in at third base to replace Jackson and Brieanna Priebe is likely to play second base. Priebe hit .213 last year with 11 RBIs, starting all but one game as the team's designated hitter during her freshman season.

Shannan saw limited time off the bench as a freshman. Junior Shaye Wright had a similar role with the team last year, but will likely assume a starting outfield job in 2012. She will be in the mix with senior Katie Howard and freshman Miranda Holland to fill the two corner outfield spots. The trio will also see at bats at designated hitter to help spell Harris on occasion.

While SCR-I brings a talent squad back for the 2012 season, Knox County may have a leg up on the Lady Tigers, returning all but one starter, including all-district performers Rachel Poston on the mound, Bailey Couch behind the plate, Devin Gudehus on the infield and Mackenzie Hustead and Olivia Nichols in the outfield. Couch is the reigning Tri-Rivers Conference MVP.

"Knox pretty much has everyone back, so they likely are the pre-season favorites," Small said.

The young Lady Tigers hope they will have something to say about that in 2012.

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